Archive for the ‘Zechariah 1’ Category

Religious Decline and Hope of Recovery   Leave a comment

Above:  Malachi

Image in the Public Domain

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READING MALACHI, PART II

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Malachi 1:2-3:12

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As I wrote in Reading Malachi, Part I, the dating of the Book of Malachi is vague–perhaps prior to 445 B.C.E., when the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah began (Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah 1-13; 1 Esdras 8-9)–or perhaps not.   Clear, however, are the sense of spiritual crisis and the religious decline in the Book of Malachi.

Consider 1:2-5, O reader.  We read divine assurance of love for the people.  We may assume safely that the population (much of it, anyway) needed this assurance.  The proof of divine love for Jews in Judea in Malachi 1:2-5 is their continued existence in their ancestral homeland.  The contrast with their ancient foe and cousin people, the Edomites, is stark.

I have read and blogged about divine judgment on the people of Edom in Amos 1:11-12; Isaiah 21:11-12; Jeremiah 49:7-22; Ezekiel 25:12-14; Ezekiel 35:1-15; Obadiah; and Isaiah 34:5-17.

The designated portion of the Book of Malachi continues with the condemnations of priests and the population.  We read of priests offering defiled food as sacrifices.  We read that God objected strongly to such disrespect, and preferred no ritual sacrifices to the offerings of blemished animals.  (See Exodus 12:5; Exodus 29:1; Leviticus 1:3, 10; Leviticus 3:1; Leviticus 22:22).  We read that God was really angry:

And now, O priests, this charge is for you:  Unless you obey and unless you lay it to heart, and do dishonor to My name–said the LORD of blessings into curses.  (Indeed, I have turned them into curses, because you do not lay it to heart.)  I will put your seed under a ban, and I will strew dung upon your faces, the dung of your festal sacrifices, and you shall be carried out to its [heap].

–Malachi 2:1-3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Furthermore, we read that (much of) the population of Israel has failed to keep the covenant, too.  We read that God objected to Jewish men divorcing Jewish wives to marry foreign women.  One may recall that this was also an issue in Ezra 10.  As prior to the Babylonian Exile, idolatry is in play.  Deuteronomy 7:25-26; Deuteronomy 12:31 permit divorce, but Malachi 2:16 begins:

For I detest divorce….

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Context is crucial; statements never arise in a vaccum.

Malachi 3:5 specifies offenses:

But [first] I will step forward to contend against you, and I will act as a relentless accuser against those who have no fear of Me:  Who practice sorcery, who commit adultery, who swear falsely, who cheat laborers of their hire, and who subvert [the cause] of the widow, orphan, and stranger, said the LORD of Hosts.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Faithless members of the Chosen People remain “children of Jacob,” we read.  And God (as in Zechariah 1:3) expects them to express remorse for their sins and to repent:

Turn back to Me, and I will turn back to you–said the LORD of Hosts.

–Malachi 3:7b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The text continues by explaining another way (other than not committing the previously listed sins) the people could return to God:  to support the Levites (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:21-31; Nehemiah 13:10-13).  The text challenges the people to respond faithfully and generously to the extravagant and generosity of God.

Malachi 3:11 mentions locusts in the present tense.  This clue does not reveal as much as one may guess.  Does Malachi 3:11 date the Book of Malachi approximately contemporary with the Book of Joel, whenever that was?  The case for this is tenuous and circumstantial.  One may recall that swarms of locusts were a frequent threat in the region.  Malachi 3:11 may tell us one reason many people were not paying their tithes, though.

The formula in Malachi 3:10-12 exists within a context, of course.  Taking it out of context distorts its meaning.  Recall Malachi 2:17, O reader.  We read there that people have been wearying God by saying:

“All who do evil are good in the sight of the LORD, and in them He delights,” or else, “Where is the God of justice?”

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The formula in Malachi 3:10-12 rebuts that wearying statements and that wearying question.

Trusting in God liberates.  It liberates populations and individuals.  It liberates them to become their best possible selves in God, who is extravagantly generous.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOME DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF JESSAMYN WEST, U.S. QUAKER WRITER

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Judah’s Triumph Over Her Enemies   Leave a comment

Above:  Woods, Ben Burton Park, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, October 29, 2017

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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READING SECOND ZECHARIAH, PART II

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Zechariah 9:1-11:17

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Zechariah 9:1-8 may be the original portion of Second Zechariah.  This opening oracle names enemies of the Hebrews:

  1. Aram (Zechariah 9:1-2a; Amos 1:3-5; Isaiah 17:1-14; Jeremiah 49:23-27);
  2. Tyre and Sidon (Zechariah 9:2b-4; Amos 1:9-10; Isaiah 23:1-18; Ezekiel 26:1-28:26); and
  3. Philistia (Zechariah 9:5-7; Amos 1:6-8; Isaiah 14:28-32; Jeremiah 47:1-17; Ezekiel 25:15-17).

One may read about the Jebusites (Zechariah 9:7) in Judges 19:10; 2 Samuel 5:6, 8; 2 Samuel 24:16, 18; 1 Kings 9:20; 1 Chronicles 11:4.

The development of Zechariah 9:1-8 is complicated.  The original version of it may predate the Babylonian Exile.  The reference to the rampart of the fortress (9:3) may allude to a military campaign of Alexander the Great in 333 B.C.E.  Zechariah 9:1-8 seems to have passed through various editorial hands before settling down into its current state.

Regardless of the number of editorial stages of development of all the segments of Zechariah 9:1-11:17, the final version is about an ideal future when the full-realized Kingdom of God is evident on the earth and when the Messiah, a descendant of King David, is triumphant and victorious.  The arrangement of material is odd.  YHWH is triumphant in chapter 9.  The promise of restoration fills chapter 10.  Chapter 11 concludes with the desperate situation extant in First Zechariah (chapters 1-8).  The editing seems backward, from a certain point of view.  Anyway, the present day of Second Zechariah, obviously far from ideal, has much in common with 2021.

Time passes.  Technology changes.  Social mores and norms change, also.  Locations vary.  Yet much remains the same.  False prophets abound (10:2).  [Note:  The reference to teraphim in 10:2 is to household cultic objects, as in Genesis 31:19, 30-35; Judges 17:5.  Deuteronomy 18:9-14 condemns divination.  Also, Deuteronomy 13:6 and Jeremiah 23:25-32 are suspicious of dreams.]  Many leaders–shepherds, metaphorically–are oppressors and predators (10:3; 11:4-17).  In this case, prophets and leaders are the same.  This makes sense; one is a leader if one has followers.  The text is sufficiently ambiguous to apply to those who are false prophets or predatory political leaders without being both, though.

Zechariah 11 concludes on a hopeful note:  Those leaders responsible for social ills will fall from power.  This is good news the metaphorical sheep.

I, as a Christian, pay especially close attention to Zechariah 9:9-10.  This is a vision of the Messiah, sometime in the distant future, approaching the glorious, restored Jerusalem after God’s victory.  The image of the Messiah–“your king”–triumphant, victorious, and humble, riding on a donkey, occupies the background in accounts of Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-15).  Understanding Zechariah 9:9-10 helps one grasp the imagery of Christ’s self-presentation in the Gospels’ accounts of that event.

The placement of the oracles in Zechariah 9-11 in the future, without claiming,

Do x, and God will will do y,

in such a way as to date the prophecies, works.  One may recall that Haggai made the mistake of being too specific (and objectively wrong) in Haggai 1 and 2.  The prediction of the restoration of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel of Israel (9:17-10:12), therefore of the restoration of the unity of Israel and Judah, remains unfulfilled.  One may doubt that it will ever come to pass, but one cannot legitimately criticize the text for establishing a temporal marker already past (from the perspective of 2021) and being objectively wrong, by that standard.

Reality falls short of God’s ideal future.  Yet we may legitimately hope and trust in God.  Details of prophecies, bound by times and settings of their origin, may not always prove accurate.  So be it.  We moderns ought to read these types of texts poetically, not as what they are not–technical manuals for the future in front of us.  We should focus on major themes, not become lost in the details.  We ought not to try to match current events and the recent past to details of ancient prophecy.  The list of books whose authors did that and whom the passage of time has proven inaccurate is long.  One can easily miss the forest by focusing on the trees.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE CARMELITE MARTYRS OF COMPIEGNE, 1794

THE FEAST OF BENNETT J. SIMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NERSES LAMPRONATS, ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF TARSUS

THE FEAST OF R. B. Y. SCOTT, CANADIAN BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, HYMN WRITER, AND MINISTER

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The Coronation of Joshua, the High Priest   Leave a comment

Above:  Joshua, High Priest

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART XIII

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Zechariah 6:9-15

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The contents of Zechariah 1:7-6:15 date to early February 519 B.C.E. (1:7).

Zechariah 6:9-15 depicts the making of two crowns yet the coronation of just one man–the high priest, Joshua ben Jehozadak.  We read another reference to “the Branch,” Zerubbabel, supposedly due to wear a royal crown and restore the Davidic Dynasty.  We know that he did neither.  We read an affirmation of the dual leadership of Joshua and Zerubbabel.

Zechariah 6:15 predicts the completion of the Second Temple, under one condition:

If only you will obey the LORD your God!

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

That is almost a quote from Deuteronomy 28:1, at the beginning of a chapter about blessings, curses, and the consequences of disobedience to God.  Deuteronomy 28, placed in the mouth of Moses, comes from a time long after him.  The chapter benefits from centuries’ worth of hindsight.

Hindsight is the context from which people tell stories and weave interpretations.  Hindsight is useful and crucial during transitional periods, such as the temporal context of Haggai-First Zechariah.  Those who fail to learn the lessons of the past are not destined to repeat them.  Time does not play on a loop.  No, those who fail to learn the lessons of the past are destined to commit variations of those errors in new contexts.

Zechariah 6:15b states the overriding theme of Haggai 1-2 and Zechariah 1-8:

If only you will obey the LORD your God!

This is also a theme that repeats, as if on a loop, throughout the Old and New Testaments.  This theme remains germane in 2021.  However, knowing the details of how to obey God can prove challenging.  Applying timeless principles in circumstances introduces a degree of relativism.  I know, for example, that God commands me to love my neighbor as I love myself.  But how I should do that in a particular time, place, and cultural setting, as opposed to another time, place, and cultural setting?

One may have to do one’s best, trust in God, hope to get it right, and pray for forgiveness if one errs.  The desire to please God is a good start, at least.  It is more than many people want to do.  And, by grace, one can forgive oneself for trying and failing, just as God has forgiven one.

The rest of the story comes from Ezra 6:1-22 and 1 Esdras 7:-15.  We read that the construction of the Second Temple was complete in 516 B.C.E., and that a celebration of Passover followed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN DE JACOBIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP IN ETHIOPIA; AND SAINT MICHAEL GHEBRE, ETHIOPIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND FOUNDER OF THE MINISTERS OF THE SICK

THE FEAST OF LEON MCKINLEY ADKINS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MATTHEW BRIDGES, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMSON OCCUM, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO NATIVE AMERICANS

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The Eighth Vision of First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Zechariah’s Vision of the Four Chariots

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART XII

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Zechariah 6:1-8

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The contents of Zechariah 1:7-6:15 date to early February 519 B.C.E. (1:7).

The eighth vision (Zechariah 6:1-8) is of four chariots, symbolizing the four winds of heaven patrolling the earth.  (See Isaiah 66:15 and Jeremiah 4:13 for the association of chariots with the winds of heaven.)  The chariots emerge from two mountains, in Babylonian mythology, the place of sunrise.  The four winds symbolize the sovereignty of God.

Oddly, Zechariah 6:8 reads, in part:

Take good note!  Those that went out to the region of the north have done my pleasure in the region of the north.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Given that “the north” was Babylonia (Jeremiah 6:22; 10-22), what does that mean?  One may recall some of the earlier visions of First Zechariah.  One may remember Zechariah 2:6/2:10 (depending on versification), in which Jews still living in Babylonia were supposed to flee the land of the north (Babylonia).  One may recall that wickedness moved to Babylonia in Zechariah 5:9-10.  Yet in Zechariah 6:8, God’s spirit dwells in Babylonia, too.  God is in charge of the Persian Empire, we read.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN DE JACOBIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP IN ETHIOPIA; AND SAINT MICHAEL GHEBRE, ETHIOPIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND FOUNDER OF THE MINISTERS OF THE SICK

THE FEAST OF LEON MCKINLEY ADKINS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MATTHEW BRIDGES, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMSON OCCUM, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO NATIVE AMERICANS

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The Seventh Vision of First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Astarte Syriaca, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART XI

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Zechariah 5:5-11

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The contents of Zechariah 1:7-6:15 date to early February 519 B.C.E. (1:7).

The seventh vision (Zechariah 5:5-11) raises eyebrows.  The tub, with a capacity of 23 liters (21 quarts) is too small to hold the woman, but it does, somehow.  The woman represents wickedness, soon transported to Babylonia, where she/it will get a shrine.  The text names the land of Shinar, the site of the mythical Tower of Babel in Genesis 11.

I object to misogyny as much as the next self-respecting liberal.  Unfortunately, misogyny is a staple of some parts of the Bible and of much misinterpretation of certain Biblical texts.  Other details are more productive to explore in this post, however.

The shipping away of wickedness in a container echoes Leviticus 16, with the driving out of the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement.  The woman is not a scapegoat, though. No, she is a goddess–probably Astarte, the alleged wife of YHWH.  Putting these two pieces of the puzzle together, we realize that this text is about laying aside both idolatry and guilt for past sins.  Populations and individuals cannot move forward into a better future until they have acknowledged their uncomfortable, painful pasts and vowed to do better.  Learning and applying the germane lessons of the past are crucial and within human power.  The ability to forgive comes from God, who models that behavior.  Yet truth must precede forgiveness.

The burden of guilt is heavy.  I know the burden of survivor’s guilt.  One part of my psyche tells me that I could and should have done more.  Another aspect of my psyche tells me that I did as well as I could with what I had and as best I knew.  That part of my psyche tells me that I did a good job for a long time.  These two aspects of my psyche argue inside my cranium.

Also, forgiving oneself can be more difficult than forgiving others.  Forgiving others can also be a hard task, of course.

The population First Zechariah originally addressed needed to forgive themselves and their ancestors.  The only way forward was through truth and the acknowledgment of it, followed by forgiveness.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN DE JACOBIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP IN ETHIOPIA; AND SAINT MICHAEL GHEBRE, ETHIOPIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND FOUNDER OF THE MINISTERS OF THE SICK

THE FEAST OF LEON MCKINLEY ADKINS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MATTHEW BRIDGES, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMSON OCCUM, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO NATIVE AMERICANS

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The Sixth Vision of First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Zechariah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART X

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Zechariah 5:1-4

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The contents of Zechariah 1:7-6:15 date to early February 519 B.C.E. (1:7).

The sixth vision (5:1-4) was of a flying scroll about 30 feet long and about 15 feet wide.  The scroll was about the size of the portico of the Great Hall of the First Temple (1 Kings 6:3).  The purpose of the curse on this remarkable scroll was to remove all crime–namely, theft and perjury–from the land.  There was no room such transgressions in the ideal society to come–in either Judah or the world, depending on the translation of 5:3.

Zechariah 5:1-4 get us, O reader, into the realm of curses.  I, as a modern person grounded in science, give them barely a thought, except to dismiss them as superstitions.  I do not think, therefore, as the authors of Zechariah 5:1-4; Judges 17:2; Numbers 5; and Deuteronomy 29:19 did.  The importance of a curse, Biblically, relates to that of an oath.  (See Leviticus 5:20-24; Proverbs 29:24; Exodus 22:9-11/22:8-10; Judges 11:29-40; Matthew 5:33-37; et cetera.)  The importance of curses also relates to that of blessings, as in Numbers 27:1-45; Numbers 22-24; et cetera.

The emphasis on maintaining the integrity of the community of Zechariah 5:1-4 is a timeless principle, though.  May more people act according to mutuality, one of the pillars of the Law of Moses.

The importance of blessings, curses, and oaths in the Bible points to another timeless principle:  words matter.  Notice the mention of perjury in Zechariah 5:1-4, O reader.  One may recall Daniel 13, the story of Susanna, in which perjury almost cost an innocent woman her life.  The penalty for perjury in the Law of Moses is:

If the witness is a false witness, and has falsely accused the other, you shall do to the false witness just as that false witness planned to do to the other.  Thus you shall purge evil from your midst.

–Deuteronomy 19:18b-19, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

For more commentary about the importance and power of words, read James 3:1-12.  That which the author of that epistle wrote goes double or triple in the age of social media.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN DE JACOBIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP IN ETHIOPIA; AND SAINT MICHAEL GHEBRE, ETHIOPIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND FOUNDER OF THE MINISTERS OF THE SICK

THE FEAST OF LEON MCKINLEY ADKINS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MATTHEW BRIDGES, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMSON OCCUM, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO NATIVE AMERICANS

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The Fourth Vision, Fifth Vision, and Second Oracle of First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Zerubbabel’s Temple

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART IX

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Zechariah 3:1-4:14

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The contents of Zechariah 1:7-6:15 date to early February 519 B.C.E. (1:7).

The fourth vision (3:1-10; 4:4-5) is of the purification of the high priest Joshua ben Jehozadak, whom we met in Haggai 1:1.  TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) correctly translates the label in 3:2 as “the Accuser,” not “the Satan” or “Satan.”  This version thereby avoids an anachronistic reading of the doctrine of Satan, who, in Jewish theology, went from being an employee of YHWH to rebellious free agent during the Persian period.  “The Satan”–“the Accuser” and “the Adversary”–as an employee of YHWH in Numbers 22:26 and Job 1 and 2, for example.

One may legitimately argue that Satan was a rebellious free agent long before Zoroastrianism influenced Jewish theology, after the Babylonian Exile.  I, as a student of history, try not to read anachronisms into Biblical stories, though.

The vision depicts high priest Joshua as an unjustly criticized servant of God, affirmed and purified by God.  We read that Joshua was human, therefore flawed, yet that this intracommunity sniping was harmful.

We also read (as in Haggai 1:1) that Joshua and Zerubbabel (the governor) shared power.  One may recall Zerubbabel from Haggai 1:1 and 2:20-23.  One may remember that Zerubbabel would have been the Davidic king if there had been one.  One may recall that Haggai identified Zerubbabel as a king in the future (our ancient past).  Zerubbabel is “the Branch” in Zechariah 3:8.  The oracle about Zerubbabel (4:6-10) follows the fourth vision and relates to it.  That oracle declares that the governor will, by divine aid, oversee the completion of the rebuilding of the Temple.

The vision regarding high priest Joshua also predicts unusual prosperity in the future (Zechariah 4:4).  See Micah 4:4 and 1 Kings 5:5, also.

The fifth vision (4:1-3, 11-14) is of the lampstand (a menorah) and olive trees.  This vision speaks of Joshua and Zerubbabel as partners in power, with God being present.  One olive tree stands of Joshua.  The lampstand symbolizes God.  The other olive stands for Zerubbabel.

First Zechariah committed an error Haggai also made:  he predicted that Zerubbabel would become king and that the Davidic monarchy would resume.  He did not become a king, and no Davidic monarch has ruled since the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).

Sometimes–perhaps frequently–when God restores and revives peoples, God does so in ways they do not expect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN DE JACOBIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP IN ETHIOPIA; AND SAINT MICHAEL GHEBRE, ETHIOPIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND FOUNDER OF THE MINISTERS OF THE SICK

THE FEAST OF LEON MCKINLEY ADKINS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MATTHEW BRIDGES, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMSON OCCUM, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO NATIVE AMERICANS

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The Third Vision and First Oracle of First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Zechariah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART VIII

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Zechariah 2:1-13 (Anglican and Protestant)

Zechariah 2:5-17 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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The contents of Zechariah 1:7-6:15 date to early February 519 B.C.E. (1:7).

The third vision (2:1-5/2:5-9, depending on versification) is of the man with a measuring line.  This vision predicts a time when Jerusalem will be boundless, with the Divine Presence/Glory as its fiery wall.  This vision of First Zechariah contradicts Ezekiel 45:1-6 and 48:15-20, in which the ideal, future Jerusalem has a measurable length and width.  In Isaiah 60-62, another vision of the ideal, future Jerusalem, the city has tone walls.

Upon your walls, O Jerusalem,

I have set watchmen,

Who shall never be silent

By day or by night.

–Isaiah 62:6a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

If I were a Biblical literalist, these discrepancies would bother me.  But I am not, and they do not.

Either way, God is the defense of Jerusalem, we read.

The oracle in 2:6-13/2:10-17 (depending on versification) refers to

the land of the north

–Babylonia (Joel 2:20; Jeremiah 6:22; Jeremiah 10:22), then part of the Persian Empire.  One may recall that:

  1. Jewish exiles returned to their ancestral homeland in waves, and
  2. Not all Jewish exiles chose to return.

God is active in 2:13/2:17 (depending on versification).  We read of a world order seemingly at peace in the wake of the Persian conquest of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Yet some forms of stability, although perhaps long-term, are counterfeit at worst and temporary at best.  Even the relatively benign empires fall short of divine high standards.

The future vision of First Zechariah is inclusive:

Many nations will give their allegiance to the LORD on that day and become his people, and he will dwell in your midst.

–Zechariah 2:11, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Zechariah 2:11/2:15 (depending on versification) anticipates Third Isaiah’s liberal attitude:

The foreigner who has given his allegiance to the LORD must not say,

“The LORD will exclude me from his people.”

–Isaiah 56:3a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

These inclusive attitudes contradict Ezekiel 44, which excludes foreigners from the predicted Second Temple.

I, as a Gentile, prefer inclusion in God’s kingdom.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLIFFORD BAX, POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER SCHMORELL, RUSSIAN-GERMAN ORTHODOX ANTI-NAZI ACTIVIST AND MARTYR, 1943

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUGENIUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES RENATUS VERBEEK, MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER RICKSECKER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; HIS TEACHER, JOHANN CHRISTIAN BECHLER, MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; AND HIS SON, JULIUS THEODORE BECHLER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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The First Two Visions of First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Zechariah’s Vision of the Four Horns and the Four Craftsmen

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART VII

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Zechariah 1:7-21 (Anglican and Protestant)

Zechariah 1:7-2:4 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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The contents of Zechariah 1:7-6:15 date to early February 519 B.C.E. (1:7).

The first vision (1:8-17) is of horsemen.  We read that, as of early February 519 B.C.E., the status quo of bad harvests and a poor economy had not changed, despite the oracles in Haggai 1 and 2.  We read that the earth (or land, depending on translation) dwelt in “tranquility,” that is, not change (1:11).  The negative connotation of “tranquility” is evident in 1:12.  We read that, at an undefined point in the future, God will “choose Jerusalem again” (1:17).  One may raise one’s hand and ask,

What about God pressing the giant reset button about three months prior, in Haggai 2:10-19?

Such a person raises a legitimate point.

Anyhow, in Zechariah 1:17, we read that the situation will improve eventually.  The prophecy does not say when, wisely.  One may recall Haggai moving the goal post in chapters 1 and 2, only for First Zechariah to move it again.

The first vision also mentions the “seventy years” (1:12).  This calls back to Jeremiah 25:11.  For more about the “seventy years” and interpretations of them, read this post.

The second vision (1:18-21/2:1-4, depending on versification) is of the four horns and the four craftsmen.  The horn is a recurring image in some Biblical visions.  The horn evokes horned altars, with a horn at each corner–a common sight in the ancient Near East.  The horn also symbolizes power, especially military power.  The analogy is to the horns of a bull or an ox (Psalm 132:17; Deuteronomy 33:17).  We read in the second vision that those who scattered Judah came from the proverbial four corners of the earth.  These horns in the vision are metal, hence the craftsmen.  These craftsmen will execute divine judgment on the enemies of Judah, we read.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLIFFORD BAX, POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER SCHMORELL, RUSSIAN-GERMAN ORTHODOX ANTI-NAZI ACTIVIST AND MARTYR, 1943

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUGENIUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES RENATUS VERBEEK, MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER RICKSECKER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; HIS TEACHER, JOHANN CHRISTIAN BECHLER, MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; AND HIS SON, JULIUS THEODORE BECHLER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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The Third Oracle of Haggai   Leave a comment

Above:  Haggai, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART V

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Haggai 2:10-19

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Jerusalem, December 18, 520 B.C.E.–a seemingly unremarkable date.

In the third oracle (2:10-19), Haggai offered an explanation for why the situation in Jerusalem had not improved, despite the resumption of construction of the Second Temple.  Holiness was not transferrable, but ritual impurity was (Numbers 5:2; 6:6; 9:10; 19:11, 13).  Tainted and unacceptable offerings to God made the work of the people unclean, impure (verse 14).  The problem was with the altar upon which people laid the offerings.  Priests were using the altar, despite not having properly purified it ritually (Ezra 3:107; 1 Esdras 5:47-73).

Nevertheless, December 18, 520, B.C.E., marked a turning point in the people’s relationship with God:

Consider, from this day onwards,…:  will the seed still be diminished in the barn?  Will the vine and the fig, the pomegranate and the olive still bear no fruit?  Not so; from this day I shall bless you.

–Haggai 2:18-19, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Yet read Zechariah 1:18-21/2:1-4, set two months later.

I am an Episcopalian and a ritualist.  Therefore, I grasp the importance of dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s.

However, I am also a Gentile to whom ritual purity and impurity are foreign concepts.  These are concepts about which I have read, especially in regard to whether Jesus accepted them and how to interpret them in healing stories involving Jesus.  These are also concepts I have rethought, especially in regard to Jesus, after reading Matthew Thiessen, Jesus and the Forces of Death (2020).  Studying Haggai 2:10-19, I must dig into the text and read regarding the Biblical background of the ritual purification of altars.  Jewish sources teach me much.

This is a rule binding on your descendants for all time, to make a distinction between sacred and profane, between clean and profane, and to teach the Israelites all the decrees which the LORD has spoken to them through Moses.

–Leviticus 10:9b-11, The Revised English Bible (1989)

When we move from one context to another, a timeless principle remains:

What is at stake is attitude.

–W. Eugene March, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VII (1996), 728

Approaching God reverently and respectfully is essential.  Rules dictate how to do so.  So be it.  This is a serious matter in the Hebrew Bible.  This explains why Leviticus 12-15 describe how to dispose of ritual impurity of various types.  This is why Leviticus 16 pertains to the annual purging of the sacred precincts of impurity.  This is why Leviticus 1-7 go into great detail about types of offerings to God.  This is why Exodus 35-38 detail the construction of the Tabernacle.  This is why Exodus 39 focuses on the making of the priests’ vestments.  I respect all this, even though I enjoy eating pork.

I also notice that God changed the relationships, for the people’s benefits.  People were still supposed to use a purified altar, of course.

Grace is free, not cheap.

For the sake of completeness and intellectual honesty, however, I note that the first vision of Zechariah (Zechariah 1:8-17) contradicts the pressing of the giant reset button in Haggai 2:10-19.  I will get to Zechariah 1:8-17 in due time.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JASON OF TARSUS AND SOSIPATER OF ICONIUM, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE AND EVANGELISTS OF CORFU

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